Greens Update November 2021
Since accepting the role of Chairman of the Greens committee it has been a real eye opener getting involved and understanding what goes into maintaining a golf course and the many and varied activities that impact on the greenkeeping staff. Our head greenkeeper Jonathan assisted by Jake and Ian are gelling well as a team and starting to put their own markers down in looking after the course since Les retired earlier on in the summer.
I’ve been really encouraged by their attitude and willingness to listen to feedback and their wish to do things differently to keep improving the condition of the course for all our members and those people who visit the club.
We also have a committee of volunteers who have met once since the AGM who are also keen to take the club forward and act as your representatives. On the committee working alongside myself we have Andy Slater, Mark Walker, Graham Moss, Harrison Peck, Harry Sexton, and our lone ladies representative Celia Berent who could really do with a ‘mate’ to help give a better balance to the group and its representation. Any ladies interested should make themselves known to Celia or myself.
I know one of the main talking points amongst members is the status of the ‘drainage’ project which had a bit of a false start last year which I know frustrated many. I’ll explain where we are up to with this important project further on in the update. Before that I’d like to take this opportunity to give you an insight into what has been going on and what’s to come.
As well as the regular day to day work in cutting the tee’s, fairways and greens lots of other work has been undertaken with more planned through the winter months such as:
- Ø All greens, approaches, and tee’s overseeded
- Ø New paths installed off the first tee, over the wet areas on the 9th fairway and an extension adjacent to the back 9th tee
- Ø Localised drainage work at the back of the 7th green, in front of the brook on the 3rd and the 4th approach
- Ø In addition to the above work has been undertaken to provide a better flow from the black brook at the confluence with Whitehall Brook which is vital as the water table rises during the winter months
- Ø Balsam clearance at above location
- Ø 7th drainage outlets fully cleared and made operational
- Ø Work has been done on repairing bridges
- Ø The fairways, tees and approaches have been aerated
- Ø The greens in late October were subject too AIR2G2 Air injection which is a specialist process which relieves compaction without disturbing the surface of the greens. This whole process took less than 3 hours and I doubt many members even noticed.
- Ø The new shoe cleaning compressor was installed
- Ø The two single seater buggies which were out of action have been assessed with one repaired and fully functional with the other scheduled for repair after Christmas
- Ø A programme of tree cutting, pollarding etc. has been specified and will be undertaken as soon as the equipment can be accessed. The work had to be postponed in September due to the contractor falling ill
- Ø A new safety fence to protect the house behind the 2nd green has also been designed with materials sourced to increase the height from 1.5M to 3.5M which will then allow the pins to be placed towards the rear of the green again as we are currently restricted to the front due to the regularity of stray balls into the property. This work will take place during November
- Ø Greens treatment through the winter months to maintain the green sward that we have enjoyed through the summer months due to Jonathan introducing new agents to improve overall health
I know from the feedback I have received that many members have been frustrated by the lack of progress other than the work done on the 5th the announcement work would begin last September. At council there is frustration too, however it must be pointed out that last September we had not fully specified or agreed what work should take place and its priority therefore could not communicate this effectively with the nominated contractor. In addition to this we would also have been in breach of environmental law as we did not have the correct exemptions in place even for the work done on the 5th where the new discharge into the brook was installed.
It is important that we have a clear plan, all exemptions and permits in place as well as a plan of how the course will be played and navigated whilst the work is undertaken. What we all must realise as members of AEGC is that the area occupied by Whitehall Brook which is a major feature of the course and our main point of all drainage discharge is part of the flood plain for the area and however we may not like this flooding a golf course is much more palatable to the Environment Agency than flooding properties. It is essential that the brook is properly maintained, free from vegetation and sediment so that it flows as freely as possible.
I have met with the environment agencies local manager and the enforcement officer to make sure that the EA are doing everything they can to support us, and they appreciate what we need to do to protect our course. Enforcement action is underway with a local householder where the brooks flow has been affected by the collapse of a retaining wall. We now have a clear understanding of what we can do and what we can’t do without permits etc. A positive relationship with the EA is extremely important as we look to improve drainage and the operation of the brook.
We have a comprehensive course report which sets out several priorities that we need to consider improving the course with the main recommendations focussed on the drainage particularly on the approach to the 4th, the slope down onto the 7th fairway and the first part of the 9th fairway. In addition, there is a proposal to install an attenuation pond behind the trees on the 7th and first tee which we are still not agreed upon until we fully investigate the dredging of the brook and the relationship and levels with the black brook.
I have committed to council that along with the head greenkeeper and the greens committee that we will put together a plan to tackle the hotspots mentioned earlier in late spring/early summer 2022. It is important to point out here and now that this will be intrusive and disruptive work, but the plan will include how seniors, ladies and club competitions will be prioritised. I can assure you all that the money set aside as reported at the AGM along with that raised by the generous donations of members is ring fenced for the drainage work only.
Ideally it would be great to do the work during the quieter winter months, but the high-water table prevents that happening as all work during the winter must be carried out manually with as little machine use as is non-essential otherwise the course would be destroyed in certain locations.
In addition, there are other aspects of work that can be done by hand and the greens staff have committed to push on improving paths, bridges and further localised drainage works.
During the spring and summer, myself and the greens committee will be looking to set up several working parties/days to carry out divot repairs, brook clearance and other general maintenance work. We will look to make these as much a social event as well as helping with course management.
It is essential that myself, the greens staff, and the committee are as approachable and transparent as we can possibly be. I will look to provide regular communications of why certain things are being done and why certain things can’t be done.
Going forwards if you have any suggestions for improvements (not simply complaints) then I or your committee would be pleased to hear them.
Kind Regards and good golfing
Neil. J, Chairman of Greens